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**Youth Art Month Awards: Wheeling Park High School Student Clinches Top Prize**

photo by: Derek Redd

Mo Smith, on the left, and Julianna Walters are pictured with their award-winning artwork from the West Virginia Art Education Association’s Youth Art Month awards. Smith’s piece was recognized as the Overall Best in Show, while Walters’ artwork secured first place in the painting category.

In Wheeling, a junior at Wheeling Park High School showcased a groundbreaking art piece that received the prestigious overall Best in Show award during the recent West Virginia Art Education Association Youth Art Month award ceremony.

Titled “Waiting on a Wish,” Mo Smith’s artwork captivated the audience at the Parkersburg Art Center, seamlessly blending acrylic painting with origami techniques. The central theme of the piece features a woman standing with folded hands, surrounded by an aura with closed eyes. The artwork incorporates numerous paper cranes, symbolizing the Japanese legend that folding 1,000 paper cranes grants a wish.

While some cranes were intricately painted onto the canvas, the majority were meticulously folded, hand-painted, and delicately sewn into the artwork.

Among the talented winners from Wheeling Park High School, Julianna Walters also achieved recognition by securing first place in the painting category with her piece titled “Dehumanization,” which poignantly portrayed the atrocities of the Holocaust. Inspired by a Holocaust studies class at Wheeling Park, Walters’ acrylic-on-canvas masterpiece resonated deeply with the audience.

Smith’s award-winning creation was nurtured in the art classroom of WPHS teacher Russ Schultz, while Walters’ exceptional painting took form under the guidance of WPHS art teacher Stephanie Freeman. Both students were commended for their outstanding achievements at the Ohio County Board of Education meeting on Monday night.

Additionally, several other talented students from the Northern Panhandle region were acknowledged for their remarkable artworks. Notable mentions include Annalisa Schulbach from Brooke High School, who secured first place in the 3-D category, and Ash Walters from John Marshall High School, who excelled in printmaking. The list of winners also includes Ava Rohr (Brooke High School) with a second-place finish in digital art, Alana Kaniecki (John Marshall High School) with a second-place finish in photography, Kasey Andrew Johnson (Brooke High School) with a third-place finish in photography, Emma Wallace (John Marshall High School) with a third-place finish in digital art, and Bailey Sebroski (John Marshall High School) with a third-place finish in drawing.

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